Preparing for a royal trip on the American QueenMark Twain...


October 09, 1994|By Kim Wesley

Preparing for a royal trip on the American Queen

Mark Twain risked death and humiliation learning how to pilot a steamboat in "Life on the Mississippi," but you don't have to go through all that to ride on one today. Cruises on an old-fashioned paddle wheeler now come complete with elevators and swimming pools and crews that do the work for you.

And in less than a year, the country's largest passenger steamboat -- the American Queen -- will be ready to welcome you aboard.

When building is complete, the 4,700-ton American Queen will have six decks and all the amenities of the grand riverboats of yore -- an Opera House theater with a tall proscenium stage and private mezzanine box seats; an elegant dining room with window views of the river; and, of course, a 50-ton paddle wheel to make it go.

Builders recently attached the American Queen's 59-ton bow to the steamboat's all-steel welded hull. And, in the tradition of old-fashioned steamboating, the Delta Queen Steamboat Co. refurbished the old engines from another vessel. To get engines big enough, they had to remove them from an abandoned U.S. Army Corps of Engineers dredge.

For more information on the American Queen or one of its steamer sisters, the Delta and Mississippi Queens, contact your travel agent. For a free brochure on steamboating, call the Delta Queen Steamboat Co. at (800) 543-1949. Robert James Waller may have written a tear-jerking best seller about them, but you don't have to go to Madison County, Iowa, to see covered bridges. There are plenty in New England -- the White Mountains of New Hampshire alone have 26.

If you're interested in touring the bridges while staying at a country inn, call Country Inns in the White Mountains at (800) 562-1300.

Tourist dollars

In case you were curious, here are the 10 countries that earned the most (in billions) from foreign tourists in 1993, according to the World Tourism Organization: United States, $56.4; France, $23.5; Spain, $20.9; Italy, $19.5; Austria, $15.1; United Kingdom, $12.2; Germany, $10.6; Hong Kong, $7.7; Switzerland, $7.7; Mexico, $6.1.

Big Sam salute

Fans of America's sculptural monuments may be interested to know about a new addition -- the Father of Texas, Sam Houston.

Big Sam, as some have already dubbed the statue, is going up in Huntsville, Texas, on Interstate 45, the main road linking Houston and Dallas. When it's finished, the 67-foot high, 30-ton cement likeness should be visible from more than 6 miles away. A celebration for the roadside monument is planned Oct. 22, the day Houston was inaugurated as the first president of the Republic of Texas in 1836.

Bargain in Amsterdam

If you're planning a trip to Amsterdam, the Amsterdam Passport, which provides free admission to five museums and discounts on transportation and dining, is worth considering. The passport sells for about $50 and is available at tourist offices in Amsterdam.

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